Surreal Experiences with Reece Pine

January 18, 2017

Surreal Experiences with Reece Pine


Hi! I’m Reece, writer of In Your Court, in which recent college grad Ray happily finds himself in Vietnam for a week to teach English and play basketball. The kicker is that he knows doing any sport intensively will definitely cost him his health for a long while after it, but he needs closure with the sport that it broke his heart to abandon a couple of years earlier. To achieve it, he keeps his deteriorating spinal condition secret from people he shouldn’t.

The tall, dark and chewy guy who just happens to be well-placed to kick Ray’s ass for making good on that astoundingly dumb idea is Singaporean-Australian Xin. Xin’s a proudly upfront guy who gets frustrated by people not seeing others’ points of views clearly, and who’s struck with a bit of “Well, hello” at first sighting Ray’s joyous antics on court.

He can only do so much as a translator to prise open communication channels for Ray, though, or guide him towards a better future path. That’s something Ray comes to find through travelling – that there’s more than basketball out there and in himself, but he has to work hard to keep moving forward. Luckily, his athletic past has already primed him to be able to go above and beyond when the going gets rough, and Xin’s no pushover either. I have a lot of respect for athletes’ conviction to excelling in their sport, and anyone dedicated to learning new languages. Neither are easy!

Ho Chi Minh is somewhere I was lucky enough to work for a while, and a city of amazing contrasts: the bustle disappears and the place almost becomes a ghost town during every afternoon’s siesta; historic temples stand shoulder to shoulder with modern skyscrapers; amid large social crowds, everyone somehow knows your business sometimes before you do, so that everyone may look after one another. If an occurrence in the story sounds especially made up, it’s more likely to have happened in real life – such as the cab driver Ray sees navigating through a traffic jam by tapping out Jingle Bells on his car horn.

The improbably dreamy piano bar Ray and Xin visit is also based on one I was taken to by a friend. Hidden places like that, such as rooftop cafes accessed through shops or pop-up cinemas, abound throughout the city, but they might only be temporary. Because property taxes back in the day were calculated according to the width of the building that fronted the street, many homes in the city are “tube houses” (long and narrow, like you see in Amsterdam or Paris) and it’s not unusual for owners to open up their front rooms at their leisure to become a store that’s here today and gone tomorrow. Gardens or atrium in the center of tube houses help them “breathe”, so you never know – you might stumble upon a garden restaurant in the middle of a house. Imagine going on a baking spree and opening up your living room as an impromptu café whenever you felt like it!

As in any metropolis, less quirky aspects of Ho Chi Minh’s past also inform what you see there today. Damage from the use of the chemical weapon Agent Orange during the Vietnam war persists in society, having caused and still causing birth defects among people, which is something that deserves to be seen in fiction and elsewhere so it’s never forgotten. The disabilities of the children Ray teaches while in Vietnam are very different than his own, but his opinion that physical disabilities should always be acknowledged and supported by society at large comes from a place of empathy, and is one (I think) which bears repeating.

Of course, Ray hypocritically draws a distinction between how society treats disability versus how he treats his own disability…. He knows there’s support out there for him if he asks for it, so his silence isn’t about avoiding feeling guilty for potentially burdening others. He simply wants to bargain with his own body, by cutting loose and then paying the price. And where better to cash-in your well-being than a beautiful, tropical city while surrounded by awesome people? (Er, that’s a trick question. Treasure your health and travel safe, everyone.)

The excerpt I’ve chosen to share sees Ray decked out in a new suit in order to tag along at a meeting Xin has with charity benefactors. Hiding his worsening pain isn’t so hard while he’s enthralled by the sight of Ho Chi Minh’s streets at sunset, and seeing dapper Xin suited up helps too.


Have you ever experienced something that was so charming and surreal it sounds made up? Let me know below!



Continuing his explanation on the subtleties of Asian inner and outer relationship circles, he instantly loses me, because while I was feeling slick as hell in my new duds, all hell breaks loose behind my wide eyes the second they behold his bespoke Savile Row wet nightmare.

Fuuuuuuuck. That’s the only word for it, dragged out that long on my lolling tongue. As we walk to the hotel where the dinner is being held, the slurred syllable keeps pulsing through my head every time I catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye, or head-on, or after zoning out while staring. Yeah, fuck indeed. I’m fucked. Figuratively only.

I’m glad that all Xin catches is me looking away.

“I’ll get to the bottom of you,” Xin interrupts my self-critical reverie.

“Uh, what?”

“How to pay you back properly for letting me hang out this week. I’ll fix you up.”

I’m unfixable. “Forget it. I don’t have any business.”

“You might after tonight. And everyone’s got business. Business is communication and everyone’s got value. Everyone deserves to be heard, so I matchmake the best people to let that happen.”

I’ve never heard the role of ‘middleman’ put like that. It’s not as cold as I imagined it would be… or Xin to be, now that he has that passionate flare lighting his amber eyes. “You really like your job, huh?”

“I love it.”

Good. Good for him. That’s how I feel—felt about basketball. My hands are sweating, and I take them out of my trouser pockets, flexing my fingers in the light breeze. The hand closest to Xin’s swinging hand stays uncomfortably hot.

Sunset drenches the city’s old French provincial facades in sticky tangerine light. Kids play street soccer and sometimes shuffle to give way for passing traffic, sometimes not. I’m learning that in concert with the unspoken bigger-has-right-of-way road rule, an overwhelming majority of weaker bodies can force a car to circumvent them, until they’re overpowered by a bus, which in turn halts for a truck. Traffic lights are suggestions. One cab we pass is honking its horn to the rhythm of Jingle Bells.

A  handful  of  people’s  elbows  get  knocked  by  people  on  slow-passing scooters, and when Xin drifts to walk on the outside of me, closer to the road, I move to his other side to be a barrier. I laugh when I realize he’s trying to do the same thing, the idiot, to guarantee my safety. All we’re doing is putting the pair of us nearer to harm’s way. I knock his shoulder with mine to lure him back in on the sidewalk. He takes the bait, knocking me, and we have this stupid giggling battle down the street, crumpling our suits in tandem.

Day three and I’m not just still mobile, I’m having fun. I hope reality will wait a bit longer to drop the hammer, but I can feel it lining up over my head, damn near blotting out the falling sun’s rosy glow.


Check out In Your Court today!


In Your Court by Reece Pine



With a shot at happiness in sight, it’s no time to drop the ball.

A back condition ruined Ray’s basketball ambitions, but he wants one last opportunity to play before hanging up his sneakers. While volunteering as a coach at a special needs school in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, he meets Singaporean Xin, who works matching wealthy corporations with compatible charities. Xin helps the American navigate the local customs in order to see the smile Xin fell for at first sight, but Ray makes sure no one sees how hard it is for him to keep upright, let alone keep enjoying Vietnam and playing the sport he loves.

When Ray’s back pain becomes too great to hide, Xin accommodates him in Ho Chi Minh and in Singapore—and in bed. Ray wants to imagine a future for them but fears he’s damaged goods, and Xin’s obligations in Asia aren’t easily forgotten. Ray won’t be another charity of Xin’s, especially when Xin also needs someone by his side. Their romance will be cut as short as Ray’s basketball dreams unless he can close the Pacific-sized distance between them.

World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.


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One Response to “Surreal Experiences with Reece Pine”

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